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Peshmerga forces rise Kurdish flag near Kirkuk in Northern Iraq

ISIS attacks in Iraq have fast-forwarded Kurdish Independence: British Expert

Hawar Abdulrazaq
BasNews, Erbil
British political expert has said that an independent Kurdish state is very close and believes that the recent developments in Iraq have hastened the Kurdish dream of achieving independence.   
Professor Gareth Stansfield is a Senior Associate Fellow and Director of Middle East Studies at The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), an independent think tank engaged in cutting edge defense and security research.
“Independence for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq is tantalizingly close. Indeed, the geopolitical realities are now rapidly catching up with the nationalist visions and the majority of Kurds in the region,” Stansfield told BasNews.
“The invasion of Mosul by ISIS on June 10, and the subsequent Sunni Arab insurgency against the Government of Iraq has, in every way, fast-forwarded the crystallizing of the geopolitical parameters needed to see the Kurds become independent”, Added the British Expert.
Last week, Kurdish President Massoud Barzani asked Kurdistan Parliament to begin organizing a referendum on Kurdish independence.
Stansfield who is also a Professor of Middle East Politics at the University of Exeter in England, explains that if the Kurds take this step, it will have a big impact in the entire region.
“If President Barzani keeps to his word and holds a referendum on independence in the next few months, then the dream, the vision, will become a reality and Kurdistan, and the Middle East, will be a very different place. And Kurdistan’s challenges will similarly be very different as well,” said Stansfield who has done a lot of research on Kurds and their long struggle for independence.
Regarding the possibility of Kurdistan announcing independence and whether it will be a viable state, Stansfield believes it will; but it will still need external backing.
“Kurdistan has the building blocks of being viable, internally speaking. Indeed, there are many established states that do not have Kurdistan’s cohesion, resources, or state institutions. But it is landlocked and will always need to have at least one friendly neighbour, along with broader regional support,” said Stansfield.
He also believes that Kurds will need wider international support, as well particularly from Western powers, especially if Kurdistan faces a jihadist Islamic State to the south and west.
Israel recently showed its support for an independent Kurdistan, while Iran rejected such an idea. Regarding Iran’s influence in the Kurdistan Region Stansfield thinks if the Kurds decide to establish a state Tehran might cause trouble for the KRG.
“The fear of Iran being able to cause internal security problems in Kurdistan is well known, and not doing Tehran’s bidding exposes the Kurdistan Region to internal security concerns the like of which it perhaps has not witnessed before. But it is still unlikely that such pressure would force President Barzani – now clearly a figure with an eye on history, and how history would write about him if he were to lose either the opportunity to hold Kirkuk, or to secure Kurdish independence – to relinquish what has been an unattainable objective ever since the commencement of the Kurdish Revolution by his father in 1961”, explained Stansfield.
With the ISIS attacks and its ability to control Northern Provinces of Nineveh and Salahaddin Provinces, Stansfield says that the recent policies from Baghdad have contributed to the current crisis.
“Political and radical Islamism has been a strong and powerful mobilizing force, particularly from 2004 onwards, So the origins are older than Maliki’s government, but it is Maliki’s post-2010 actions in particular that gave ISIS the opportunity to grow and expand into the organization capable of taking control of a huge amount of Iraq,” concluded Stansfield.

Gareth Stansfield, Senior Associate Fellow and Director of Middle East Studies at The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
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